Dawn Penson will represent the students on OCC’s Board of Trustees during the 2019-20 academic year. As the Student Trustee she will attend monthly meetings and participate in all votes. Penson is a 41-year-old mother of three with a perfect 4.0 grade point average in the Human Services major. She is also blind. “I have experience being on the board for Arise, the National Federation of the Blind Syracuse chapter and all of the other advocacies I am involved with. I will bring experience to the Board of Trustees while highlighting my own position as a grown woman with children who came back to school with a disability.”
Penson lost her sight in 2012 after being diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a rare genetic disorder that leads to a breakdown and loss of cells in the retina. “Before I lost my sight, I was very vain. It was all about me. The National Federation of the Blind and the New York State Commission for the Blind helped me to see there is life after blindness. Just because you’re blind or have a disability doesn’t mean you’re broken.”
Despite what she has lost, Penson doesn’t have any regrets. In fact, she feels fortunate. “My youngest son says all the time, ‘mommy I wish you could see.’ I see perfect. I see better now that I don’t have my sight than when I could see. If there was a cure today, I would not take it because the world to me is beautiful. Now I see the character of someone. Before it was all of the superficial things. It took me a long time to be secure with myself. I am very happy with myself.”
Penson will be sworn-in as Student Trustee at the first board meeting Tuesday, October 1. The meeting will be held in room W210 of the Whitney Applied Technology Center and is open to the public.